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The Southern Resort of a Proper Bostonian
Gwilym S. Brown
September 10, 1962
James Walker Tufts—of the Massachusetts Tuftses—built a New England village on 5,000 acres of Carolina desert and opened it as a health spa, never guessing that his Pinehurst would turn out to be a mecca for golfers
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September 10, 1962

The Southern Resort Of A Proper Bostonian

James Walker Tufts—of the Massachusetts Tuftses—built a New England village on 5,000 acres of Carolina desert and opened it as a health spa, never guessing that his Pinehurst would turn out to be a mecca for golfers

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To help overcome the heat difficulty the tournament has been scheduled a little later than usual. Another innovation has also been readied. In order to get the first-day field of 72 matches around the course before dark, it would be necessary to start the earliest twosome off at 6:30 a.m. "I'll be darned if I'll make anyone play golf at that hour," Dey told Dick Tufts. "Let's institute Pinehurst daylight saving time." The first twosome will now tee off at 7:30 a.m., Pinehurst time, and the town will be in its own time zone for the entire week.

There are those who would say Pinehurst has been in its own time zone since 1895. That was when its founder, James Walker Tufts, a Boston soda-fountain-equipment manufacturer, came south to found a peaceful, quiet resort where people could come for rest and recuperation. He purchased 5,000 acres of cut-over timberland at $1 per acre (worth $12,000 an acre now) and set about establishing a health resort for northern invalids of moderate means who would take walks and carriage rides during the day and play cards and charades at night. He built the Holly Inn and 16 cottages and then sent out notices to northern doctors that "consumptives are welcome." It was just about this time that consumption (tuberculosis) was definitely categorized as a contagious disease, not a hereditary one, as medical science (and James Tufts) had previously assumed. The following year Tufts's notices stated: "Consumptives excluded."

The fact that anyone at all came to Pinehurst seems to be something of a resort miracle. What Tufts had bought for $5,000 was 5,000 acres of desert. He called his little village Pinehurst because a hurst is a mound or piece of rising ground, usually a sandy one. Early visitors scanned the arid waste around them and announced that they could understand the hurst part of the name very well but for the life of them could not see how pines could be connected with the place.

But pines grow fast in Carolina, and so did Pinehurst. One of its most important charms was its initial design. The original plan, as drawn up by the Boston landscape and civic planning firm of Olmstead and Olmstead, called for a village common, with the town hall at one end and a church at the other. The streets swept out from this village green in concentric circles, with the shops and business offices clustered around the common. The designers ordered 200,000 trees and shrubs (50,000 of them from abroad) and laid out a series of 60-foot-wide lanes. These were made up of 30 feet of roadway, bordered on each side by an eight-foot strip of shrubbery and seven feet of sidewalk. These lanes, lined with longleaf pines, holly, dogwood, glistening magnolia trees and snug little cottages, were built for the horse and buggy. They are so circuitous that even longtime residents get lost in the bushy maze. The Boston designers also tried, and succeeded, in leaving a strong northeastern stamp on Pinehurst. The result today is that the town looks as much a part of New England as Rockport, Mass. or Camden, Me.

Golf came quite casually into this carefully planned community. A group of early visitors was noticed knocking a golf ball from hurst to hurst. Tufts, a man who needed some grass growing under his feet at this point, ordered a nine-hole course built in 1898. He didn't tell his guests that its chief use was to be as a break against the fierce brush fires that swept around the community from time to time. The first full course was Pinehurst No. 1. It was finished in 1899. The No. 2 course, then 5,860 yards long, was completed in 1907, course No. 3 was finished in 1910 and course No. 4 nine years later. The fifth course, Pinehurst No. 5, was added in 1961. The courses have been rerouted so many times over the years that about 40 or 50 of the holes have been, at one time or another, part of two, or even three, of the layouts.

Until 1934 the putting greens on all four courses were sand—a condition that often enabled local experts to out-hustle some of the golf stars who played there. But by the beginning of World War II all the greens were grass.

The town expanded along with the golfing facilities. The first hotel, the Holly Inn, was finished in 1896. In 1901 The Carolina Hotel was opened. Two more hotels, the Manor House and the Pine-crest, were built later. The Carolina remains the largest of all. It is a huge, rambling, four-story structure of yellow clapboard that looks as if it should be peopled with characters from the novels of Henry James. During the 1920s The Carolina was so popular that its spacious halls were curtained off into additional rooms.

"In those days," recalls Dick Tufts, who has wintered in Pinehurst since 1904, "the clerk at the desk where you checked in didn't give you the key to your room, he gave you a safety pin."

Business became so good that in 1920 the Tuftses decided to expand Pinehurst. They bought land in the Knollwood area of nearby Southern Pines, put up two hotels and two golf courses at a total cost of more than $1 million and sat back contentedly to let the continuing national prosperity justify their large financial risk. What they got instead was October 1929, the financial counterpart of an unplayable lie. Pinehurst. Inc. went bankrupt.

"We had quite a scramble," admits Dick Tufts when prodded, adding with unquestionable accuracy, "It was mainly a financing problem."

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